A fit of Nostalgia–the birth of a Dartmouth Admissions Interviewer

In the last few months I have felt as far from my Dartmouth self as possible.  I am working at a job that sees the name, not the school, I have little to no regular contact with my Dartmouth friends (my fault more than anything else, I will call you back Cat I swear!), and every day I forget another little thing about my life there and the world I made for myself.

2008-Spring-Bass-Dartmouth-750p
Generic, idyllic, Dartmouth at its best! (thanks flickr)

This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I have always thought that Dartmouth liked Dartmouth too much.  I was proud of Joey and I for leaving when we graduated.  We thought that if we didn’t get out right after graduation we would fall into the Hanover trap I saw snag so many well-meaning people.  You work so hard to create and better the sense of community in Hanover, I understand that you wouldn’t want to abandon the programs you’ve built, the people you know, and the connections you’ve made buuuuuuut…It’s college and now it’s over.

Bummer I know.  Joey and I decided to rip the bandaid off and set out on our own.  But in the last few months, as the bike trip looms closer, and therefore the uncertainty of the after-bike-trip becomes more real I thought more and more about where we would be in 6 months and if we could finagle a closer relationship with our most recent past life.  Annnd…..thats about the time I got the email from the admissions office.

Re: Help Interview the Class of 2020!

You had me at your Dartmouth domain name, Admissions Office.  I filled out the form, signed up for 2 interviews and called it a day.  I figured it was a long shot that I would get to do any because I have never interviewed before and I have been out of Hanover for less than 2 years, but hey!  I got the email with my inteview-ees names, contact info and high schools.  Two brand shiny new Dartmouth applicants just awaiting my email.  I would be a representative of the college again!  I could wear my green loud and proud and not feel like I was bragging to people on the street (I am wearing a Dartmouth t-shirt as I type this post but I am out in public so I put my sweatshirt on over it)!  I would get to talk about my Dartmouth experience to someone who actually asked about it!  I was very excited to get started, so I got down to it and sent my introduction/scheduling emails to both candidates.

START THE REACTOR

I thought I would just magically glide through these interviews and impress the crap out of the applicants with my wit and wisdom.  I was half right.  I signed up for 2 interviews because I thought at the time “If I fuck up the first one I can redeem myself with the second.” Turns out this was a good thought the have.  I totally fucked up the first interview.

So here’s what happened:

I sent both candidates scheduling emails.  Actually I sent an email to one candidate, she responded with a different time than my original request so I copy and pasted the original email for the next candidate…..and here starts the confusion.  I thought I had it all figured out, I was going to interview one on Wednesday at a coffee shop near my work, and one on Friday at a coffee shop near my house.  WRONG.  I thought that Monday girl had rescheduled for Friday…..it was Wednesday girl instead.  Monday I was having a bad day at work, the numbers weren’t adding up, my department was the butt of all the jokes/problems/data explosions of the day and I was feeling pretty wiped.  I went home feeling like a failure, got all ready for a night of pajama-wearing, book-reading, instagram-scrolling self-pity when I got a text:

“Hi Ms. Morrison, I wanted to confirm that we were on for tonight.  I am at the Starbucks on SW Park and Clay as we discussed, please let me know if you are still coming.”

FUCK

I was already 20 minutes late, and I was 20 minutes away from where I was supposed to meet this person.  Ms. Morrison dropped the ball in a big way on this one.  So I did what I always do, owned the mistake and said I would be there in 20 minutes if she had the time to stay.  She said that she did mostly because I was using my power against her (no way you are canceling your own admissions interview right?) and I got ready to go.  I was borderline melt-down by this point, I had ruined the company’s books for the month by my incompetence at work (not true) and also ruined this poor unsuspecting student’s future at home (also not true).  I ripped my pajamas off hulk style (not really but I am pretty sure I hulk smashed my closet in the process) and pulled on a pair of borderline too tight jeans (damn you desk job) and a Dartmouth t-shirt and sweatshirt for good measure.  I screamed something incoherent to Joey about borrowing the truck and he asked me if I was ok to drive I said “Doesn’t matter, I’m ruining this girl’s life” and ran out the door.  When I got in the truck I took some deep breaths and thought about what Joey said.  If I couldn’t calm down enough to drive the truck safely, I couldn’t do the interview.  So I put the windows down and physically chilled myself out all the way there.

I arrived and realized what a formality these interviews are.  I probably looked more like my Dartmouth self during finals than I did the well-collected Alum that I’m sure this student was hoping for.  She was dressed in tasteful but trendy business casual and I burst through the door with my shoes untied and my butt crack showing.  Classic.  As soon as we dove into the interview I realized this girl didn’t need me at all.  She was a legacy (as am I, no judgement) and had the most impressive resume I have ever seen on a high school student.  I found myself just trying to hold her interest, trying to get her to like me instead of the other way around.  She knew how to answer every question I asked her like she wrote a book about interview etiquette and I left there hoping that this future NASA-director mentioned me as the “frazzled, eccentric, humanities major the universe sent to do her Dartmouth interview that made her realize MIT was more her speed” in her future memoir.  In conclusion, she won and I lost (not that I’m keeping score, jk I totally am, all the time).

Prepare for round 2!

After embarrassing myself so thoroughly on the first interview I decided to actually prepare for the Friday one.  I wrote down some questions before hand in my notebook, thought hard about the highlights of my Dartmouth experience and double checked my email correspondence all week.  I was still late, but only by 15 minutes and this time I actually showed up on my bike as promised so I think the lag was ok.  Only draw back was that I definitely took my sweaty shirt off in the parking lot and put my Dartmouth one on after I locked my bike.  I figured only the people right at the windows would have seen the pasty-white glow of my torso in the dark parking lot.  I walked in, looked around and made eye contact with my interview-ee, who was sitting dead center in front of the window I’d just stripped my sweaty clothes off in front of…..but she didn’t run so I guess it was fine.

This interview restored my faith in the process.  This student had a great record of course, smart as a whip, was very involved with niche extracurriculars that are both interesting and widely applicable, seemed well-spoken, and talked of keeping her art private from her academic life so she could preserve the joy she got from it.  I liked her.  She didn’t seem like the first girl, in the way that she thought of Dartmouth as a fairy tale and not an absolute.  I gave her my honest assessment of the reality as I knew it, told some hard truths, and nothing scared the excited smile off her face.  She was stoked to be around other people who were stoked so they could stoke each other’s stoke.  The stoke was so high, folks.  I didn’t plan everything exactly right though, I still had to ask her to walk down the street to a different coffee shop half way through because the one we were in was closing (who knew coffee shops don’t stay open until 8?).  This turned out to be even weirder when we came back and i realized her mom had been waiting in the car outside the other shop the whole time.  She lives in a suburb of Portland and there are no busses that run regularly after 7 so her mom was waiting for her to come out…and she saw me casually leave with her underaged daughter and walk way on down the road (2 blocks, actually nothing).  Woops, probably shouldn’t have done that, I think its in the code of conduct for interacting with minors somewhere (I swear I read the interview packet).

At the end of the interview she asked me what advice I wish I had been given when going into my freshman year of college.  I told her not to let FOMO rule her life.  TURNS OUT THE TERM FOMO IS SO OLD HIGH SCHOOLERS DON’T KNOW IT ANYMORE.  Beside the point, but after I explained she actually got really excited.  I told her it is great to try new things and you should give everything a chance but not to be ashamed to say you don’t click with an activity or club just because the people seem cool/cooler than you and you want to hang.  You can hang anyway.  She wrote me a really nice thank you note about how she was glad to hear it was ok to be herself, and it made me a little sad that I was the only one who told her that.

But anyway!  My nostalgia has been satisfied.  I got the privilege of fucking up another Dartmouth Tradition and writing myself a little more into the future of the college.  After this experience I am convinced that more young alums should do these interviews!  I interviewed with my Dad’s friend Alan when I applied and not that he’s not a great interviewer (Sup Mr. McDonald, how’s Joyce?  Who am I kidding he will never read this) but having someone who had lived on campus in the last 5 years would have been an eye-opener for me.  In the name of helping others, here are my parting tips for young interviewers:

  • MAKE A GODDAMNED CALENDAR REMINDER
  • check closing times of your venue
  • wear clothes that fit
  • don’t take your shirt off in the parking lot
  • try not to ramble too much when your interview-ee turns out to be way STEM smarter than you and NOT at all interested in your Anthropology degree
  • Tell the truth about your experience, but don’t be hyperbolic
  • Maybe read up on some of that young people slang, it changes more than you think.
  • LUV IT
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